Reports say a man who stole a cellphone from an Ebola virus quarantine ward in a Ugandan hospital ended up apparently catching the virus from germs on the phone.
Obviously, most of us aren’t in close proximity to an Ebola outbreak – or likely to be pinching a phone from a dangerously ill person – but germ expert Charles Gerba, Ph.D., a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, isn’t surprised the man got sick.
Bathrooms get cleaned regularly because we realize they could harbor bacteria, but mobile devices we touch every day (and even take with us into the bathroom), aren’t thought of as particularly germy.
And it’s not just cellphones. Think about your iPad or other tablet devices.
“That devices can be a source of disease transmission is not a subject of debate anymore,” infectious disease specialist Dubert Guerrero, M.D., coauthor of a study about the persistence of bacteria on iPads published in the American Journal of Infection Control, told the New York Times. (The study was about iPads used by staff in hospitals for electronic record keeping.)
Spreading germs from your phone or tablet is only a problem if you share your devices.
But if you do – for example, you work or volunteer at a place where an iPad or other mobile device is used by several people – wiping the devices carefully could be a good idea. It is tricky, however. Do not spray devices with any kind of liquid cleaner or you could damage them, manufacturers warn.
Apple, on its website, recommends just wiping a device with a soft, lint-free cloth. Guerrero and his colleagues wrote that wiping down a screen with a barely damp soft microfiber cloth helped remove some bacteria.
Better yet, consider getting a pack of inexpensive screen protectors for your phone or iPad. The protector can be periodically replaced after it gets grimy.
Photo: Andrey Popov/Istockphoto
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